Burnley and Padiham go to the polls

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The coalition is braced for its first major public test as voters go to the polls in the UK’s biggest ever set of elections.

Alongside council contests in much of England, crucial ballots are being held for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There is also the small matter of a referendum on switching to the Alternative Vote (AV), and a parliamentary by-election in Leicester South.

Polls suggest the Liberal Democrats could be the biggest losers when the smoke clears and the counting is finally completed.

Many are predicting the public will choose to punish Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for a series of policy concessions since joining forces with Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Lib Dem leader admitted his party faced a “tough time”. However, he insisted he had “high hopes” Lib Dem candidates would overcome the odds.

“The temperature is rising, feelings are rising high as you would expect at this stage of a referendum campaign,” Mr Clegg said. “But at the end of the day it isn’t about what politicians think or feel or even say to each other, it’s about what people want. If you want something a bit fairer, a bit better, which makes all politicians work a bit harder for your vote, then vote Yes, vote for change.”

In the last big set-piece clash of the campaign, the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband traded blows in the Commons over coalition cuts.

The Labour leader said: “Remember what they said a year ago: Two parties working together in the national interest. Now what do we have? Two parties threatening to sue each other in their own interest. That’s what’s changed in the last year,” Mr Miliband said.

But Mr Cameron responded: “What this coalition has done over the last year is frozen council tax, capped immigration, lifted a million people out of income tax, introduced a pupil premium, linked the pension back to earnings, cut corporation tax and set up more academies in 10 months than the last government set up in 10 years.”